Deep Issue

Posted: October 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 33 Comments »

We have talked about Nick Foles troubles with deep balls this year. Actually, deep accuracy has never been a strength of his.

Derek put up an Iggles Blog post on the subject and showed how often Foles was off target last year. And Derek did this by showing the completions, not the errant throws. Foles had deep accuracy issues in college. One of the reasons I wasn’t high on Foles is that his star WR, Juron Criner, was always having to slow down and wait on deep balls. That gave Criner a bunch of highlight grabs, but didn’t look good for Foles.

To be fair, Arizona had a horrible OL in Foles Senior season. He was constantly getting hit as he released the ball and that is going to hurt your accuracy.

Foles does not have an overly strong arm. He doesn’t have great footwork. That’s a bad combination on deep balls. Oddly, this year the throws seem to be more overthrows than passes where the receivers have to slow down and wait for the ball.

I do think the poor blocking this year is part of the problem. Foles also doesn’t seem to have a good sense of timing with this group of receivers. Hopefully that will get better as the season goes along. I am curious to see if his downfield accuracy increases. Foles will work on it over and over. Kelly wants the deep ball to be part of this offense.

You can get better with time. Tom Brady has improved on deep balls. Donovan McNabb got better from early in his career to his prime.

This is an area where Foles must improve.

* * * * *

The Eagles got in touch with Jake Knott early Tuesday morning. That was the official beginning of Week 5. I’m confused on his situation, but that made it sound like Knott’s suspension was the first 4 games, even though he wasn’t on a roster.

Knott is one focused individual. He knows he had a disastrous spring/summer and has to be lights out from here on to stay in the NFL.

PE.com talked to Knott.

* * * * *

Looking ahead…the Rams will start young Austin Davis at QB. BGN has some details.

Davis is part of the great QB class of 2012 and broke many of Brett Favre’s records at Southern Miss. He is a young guy with some potential. It will be interesting to see if he can be the Rams QB of the future. You have to think Sam Bradford is done there.

* * * * *

Can’t wait to get him back.

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The Answer is…

Posted: October 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 126 Comments »

We don’t know.

The question is whether Nick Foles is a franchise QB. Everyone would love an answer to this and tries so skew the weekly performance of Foles into a definitive answer. You can guess. You can make predictions. The bottom line is that you simply don’t know.

Foles is in his third season. He has started 20 games.

At this point in his career, Steve Young looked like a huge bust. Terry Bradshaw had 19 TD passes…and 46 INTs. Daunte Culpepper looked like a potentially elite QB. Brian Griese looked like John Elway’s successor and a star in the making.

Just think about Drew Brees. At the end of 2003, he had been in the league for 3 years. He had shown potential, but had a losing record and more INTs than TDs. The Chargers got a high pick in the 2004 draft and spent that on Philip Rivers. Brees then had a breakout year in 2004 and looked like a star. His play regressed a bit in 2005 and he hurt his shoulder. The Chargers let him go and moved on to Rivers. Brees got to New Orleans and proved to be a perfect fit for that city and that team. He’s now on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Foles has looked great at times, but we need a larger sample size. We just don’t know what he is right now.

Even if Foles leads the Eagles to the Super Bowl this year, that doesn’t mean he’s a franchise QB. One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or possibly a superhero sent from another planet to save the Earth. But not necessarily a franchise QB. I think you need sustained excellence to be a franchise QB. That takes time. I think it will be late in 2015 before we start to know the answer to the question.

I’m not saying you can’t debate the topic. We’re football fans and arguing is what we do best. Just know that you need to wait a bit before getting confirmation of your brilliant/idiotic opinion.

* * * * *

Speaking of Mr. Foles…I enjoyed his press conference from yesterday. Nick knows he stunk on Sunday. He knows he’s been erratic this year. He’s not hiding from that. He talked about the need to improve his accuracy on downfield throws. Reporters are looking for a smoking gun as to why he’s been so off-target. I haven’t seen one answer. It really does look like a combination of things, but as he explained, he’s just missing his guys.

Shooters go into slumps in basketball. Hitters go into slumps in baseball. Right now Nick is in a deep ball slump. There isn’t a glaring mechanical issue. He just needs better accuracy and touch. Nick and the coaches will keep working on things until he gets back into a groove.

* * * * *

Bill Davis had another strong PC himself. I love the fact that Davis isn’t looking for excuses. Everyone is dying for him to say that his players have been on the field too much due to offensive struggles and that’s hurting the defense. Davis continues to say that the biggest issue is that the defense isn’t getting off the field when they’ve got a chance. If the defense gets stops, they are off in 3 plays. That’s on them to do that.

It was interesting to hear Davis talk about the decision to push back SF and give them another shot at 3rd down. He wanted that. This wasn’t Chip rolling the dice on his own. The coaches thought the risk was worth it. Davis was then honest in explaining that the offense made a great call and ran the ball to the outside when his blitzers were unfortunately coming up the middle. No coach is right all the time. You have to take some chances and sometimes the other guy is going to burn you. That happened on that sequence. You don’t cry about it. Tip your hat to the other guy and move on.

As Davis explained, the big problem with the run defense was setting the edge. The Niners inside run game was held under control. They burned the Eagles to the outside. This happened in Indy as well. There are some plays when it isn’t obvious to me who has contain. It seems like maybe some coaches found certain looks where the Eagles get into an alignment and struggle with setting the edge. There were other plays when it was clearly defined and the perimeter players just didn’t get the job done.

Davis, the defensive staff and Kelly all hate when teams can get wide. They will work hard to fix this.

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Mac is Back

Posted: September 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 47 Comments »

There were a couple of key questions about Jeremy Maclin heading into this year. First, was he all the way back from the torn ACL of last summer? And how would he do in Chip Kelly’s offense, which needs receivers to run after the catch and be good blockers? These were valid questions for a player that was going to be a key to the offense.

So far, so good.

Maclin hasn’t shown any signs of being affected by the ACL. He looks as fast as ever. He is making quick cuts and looks comfortable on the move. He isn’t shy about getting hit in the legs. He looks normal, which is exactly what you want for someone coming off a major injury.

Mac has good tape and good numbers. He is on pace to set career highs in just about every category. Here are his projected numbers for a full season:

80 catches – 1,412 yards – 12 TDs – 17.6 ypc – 20 receptions of 20 yards or more

As a point of comparison, last year DeSean Jackson was 82-1,332-9-16.2, with 25 catches of 20 or more yards. You can see that Mac is putting up some impressive numbers.

Mac had the one gift TD vs the Jags when the deep Safety decided to focus on the run or TE over the middle and left the deep area wide open, but Mac has had to earn most of his yards. He has made some terrific catches this year. His diving sideline grab on Sunday was as good as anything I can ever remember from him.

I’m also impressed by Mac’s willingness to work the middle of the field. He’ll never be Anquan Boldin, but he looks a heckuva lot better than the guy who earned the nickman Self-Tacklin’ Jeremy Maclin back in 2012. That guy avoided contact at all costs and ran for the sideline any time he had the chance.

The questions about Mac coming into the season have been answered. He is healthy and he is playing very well in Chip Kelly’s offense.

The scary thing is that he and Nick Foles still arent totally on the same page, especially down the field. They have left several TDs on the field. Mac and Foles should get better the more they play together.

* * * * *

Quick notes on some other players

* Brent Celek – What is going on? He has 3 catches for 15 yards. Last year he averaged 15.7 yards per catch. Age might have started to catch up with Celek a bit. It also looks like the timing is just off with he and Foles. Celek has been open a few times and the ball was just off target. Just as concerning, I think Celek’s blocking has taken a step back this year. That has hurt the run and pass game.

* Fletcher Cox – Remember all the Training Camp doubt on him. Cox had a quiet summer and everyone got worried. Cox has played very well and could be a Pro Bowl player by the end of the year.

* Brandon Graham – The OLB light has finally gone on for him. Graham still looks awkward at times, but he seems more comfortable and is making plays when given the chance.

* Riley Cooper – Is he off to a slow start or was 2013 a fluke? Fair question to ask based on what we’ve seen so far. I tend to think he’ll be okay, but Coop needs to get it going. He has dropped some crucial passes. They weren’t all easy, but he’s paid like a player you expect to make those kinds of plays.

* Earl Wolff – Disappointing start. Missed a game recently due to a sore ankle. Then missed a key open field tackle that gave the Niners a TD last week. I was hoping he would play well and steal the job from Nate Allen. No chance so far. Wolff is good enough to be a backup, but he’s got to play better if wants the team to have him as part of the future plays. Allen is a FA after this year. His job is there for the taking, but Wolff has to earn it.

* * * * *

The Eagles practice sqaud got shuffled around. Brandon over at BGN has the details.

Out – OL Tyler Hoover and LB Brandon Hepburn

In – OL Kevin Graf and ILB Jake Knott

Graf got cut from the roster when Lane Johnson returned from suspension. I’m glad Knott is back. You wonder about what led to his return. Did the Eagles want to look elsewhere initially? Did Knott hope for a roster spot with some other team? Did the Eagles decide Knott was better than other guys they had brought in or looked at?

Knott has some potential so it is good they can work with him.

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Thoughts on Chip’s Thoughts

Posted: September 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 297 Comments »

I love Chip Kelly. I believe in him and think he is a brilliant football coach. So I was interested to get his reaction to Sunday’s debacle.

PE.com has his press conference.

I agree with a lot of what he said. The biggest problem on Sunday is that there wasn’t just one problem. The offense was like Whac-A-Mole. Solve one thing and the next thing goes wrong. There were literally only a handful of plays all day when all 11 offensive players did their job correctly at the same time.

The OL took turns missing blocks.

Shady and the TEs missed blocks.

Coop dropped the TD catch.

There were 2 fumbles.

Foles made bad decisions.

Foles made poor throws.

Who on offense had a legitimately good game? Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews might be the only 2. Clearly that isn’t a formula for success.

Kelly talked about how he thinks things can be fixed, and I think he’s right. The offense has been erratic this year, but was the #1 scoring group in the NFL going into the game. Let’s not act like yesterday’s struggles have been happening all year long. I know the offense has been sloppy, but there is a big difference between sloppy and awful.

I do disagree with Chip in regard to one specific area. He talked about how the running game was struggling no matter who was in the game. He said this was due to poor blocking. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. Just look at this pick from Fran Duffy’s All-22 breakdown for PE.com and you can see the issue.

Yikes.

That said, McCoy is still a dancer by nature. Sproles hits the hole hard and is a natural N-S runner. I do think it would be wise to mix in more runs with Sproles. I’m not telling you that Sproles is going to get 5 yards a carry, but he might get 3 to 4 yards more consistently. And you just mix him in a bit. Shady is still the starter and key RB.

One other area I wish someone would talk to Chip about or that he would expand on is getting the ball to Shady in space. The Eagles have tried to throw him screens and even quick screens to the outside, but defenses can see these plays coming a mile away right now. Just line Shady up outside and let him run a vertical route. Line him up outside and bring him around on a fly sweep. Hand him the ball or fake to him. Line Shady up in the slot and see if he can get open on a drag route.

As much as you want to run the ball, you really want to feed it to McCoy since he is your best offensive player. If you do move him around creatively, that let’s you mix in Sproles at RB some more.

I do give Kelly credit for trying to be creative during the game. He ran from under Center and from the Pistol in the 2nd half. McCoy looked more effective since he was more downhill in those formations.

* * * * *

Jimmy Bama decided to rip on Riley Cooper. This is completely fair. Coop has dropped some passes this year and in the past. He must deliver better results. I don’t think he’s in trouble of losing his job to Jordan Matthews quite yet, but Coop needs to get going. He started slow last year before heating up. Maybe that will happen this season as well.

It better for his sake.

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Good and Bad From Sunday

Posted: September 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 328 Comments »

There are positive and negative angles to all NFL games. Since the Eagles lost on Sunday, let’s start with the bad stuff.

* Blocking – Notice I didn’t just single out the OL. Zach Ertz was called for holding on a run play. Shady McCoy got run over once by a blitzer. On another play late in the game, he failed to get outside quick enough and let the blitzer hurry Foles. Bradley Fletcher had a terrible “block” on the final punt return of the game. He got his hands on the back of the gunner and drew a flag. There was barely any contact, but the point is there should have been NONE. When you see the guy’s name on his jersey…do not touch. Nothing good will come of that. The Eagles should have been close to midfield, but that backed them up to the 30.

The OL did have a rough day. Jason Peters got beat right after Fletcher’s mistake and that put the offense back even farther. Ugh. Todd Herremans was once badly beaten to the inside. This isn’t all about Tobin and Molk. The whole Eagles team did a poor job of blocking on Sunday.

* Physicality – This ties into blocking, but then goes beyond it. Anquan Boldin caught a pass short of the sticks on 3rd down. He didn’t hesitate, instead running right at Nate Allen and bowling him over. The Niners have some “grown ass men” on their team and you aren’t going to block or tackle them unless you are a strong, rugged individual. Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde got way too many yards after contact. Receivers too. The Eagles didn’t match the Niners level of physicality.

* The passing game – This is more than Nick Foles. Riley Cooper had the go-ahead TD go through his hands. You simply have to make that catch. Foles did have a poor game. He made questionable decisions and then was off-target way too much. I thought the Eagles focused on downfield plays too much. I’m not sure how much of that was Foles and how much Chip Kelly. The blocking for the passing game was obviously a factor.

The Eagles got very little in the way of RAC yards. They did get fumbles from Cooper and Ertz, but limited yards. Receivers have to make something happen when they get the ball on quick throws.

* The run game – Many of you wanted Chip Kelly to run on 3rd/goal from the 2. No way. The Niners were in a goal line defense at that point. The Eagles weren’t getting any push against their base. How on Earth do you expect them to get push against the GL defense?

The run game is a mess right now. The plays Kelly is calling are not working. Shady has no room to run. He sometimes makes things worse by trying to go outside and get the big play. Better to get upfield for 2 or 3 yards than go wide for 0. The biggest problem is the blocking. Most of that goes on the OL, but the TEs and WRs are not helping matters.

It is crucial to get the run game fixed. You must stick with it to balance out the playbook and make the defense honest. We’ve all see what happens when they focus on just the pass and that isn’t pretty.

* Run defense – If you take away Kaep’s 58 yards on the ground, SF still ran for 160. Unacceptable. My biggest issue is that the Eagles gave up the edge too often. Setting the edge is a huge priority for the Eagles defense. SF got the D in some creative looks and then ran to the outside. It wasn’t always easy to tell which player was at fault.

This isn’t about an individual. The Eagles defense must do a better job fo funneling runs to the middle. OLBs, DEs and DBs all had a hand in the sloppy defense.

* * * * *

And now for some good.

* Special Teams – The Eagles have won the STs battle in 3 of 4 games this year. They are getting impact plays. I would guess you have to go back to 2001 or 2002 to see this kind of play, and I’m not sure even those units were this good.

– Blocked FG
– Blocked punt for a TD
– 2 FGs of more than 50 yards
– Game-winning FG
– KOR for a TD
– PR for a TD

That seems like a season’s worth of big plays. And we just finished Week 4. Great job by Dave Fipp and his players.

Darren Sproles has been an amazing addition. He has more PR yards after 4 weeks (200) than the Eagles had all of last year. That stat just blows me away.

* Pass rush – The Eagles hadn’t sacked the QB in 2 games. Yesterday they got 4. Actually 5, but they took one off the board when accepting a penalty. The Eagles pass rush was outstanding on Sunday. They regularly got pressure on Kaepernick and forced him to move. He burned them a time or two, but that’s just part of his game.

Sacks really are a complicated stat. Kirk Cousins got rid of the ball quickly. The Eagles got some pressure on him, but no sacks. Kaep tends to hold onto the ball and look for big plays. The Eagles were able to get to him. If the QB focused on getting the ball out quickly, there just isn’t much you’re going to do about it. The Eagles were able to take advantage of a QB who doesn’t do that.

* Coverage – I haven’t re-watched the game, but I felt like the DBs did a good job. You have to give credit to the Niners receivers for making some incredible catches. And Kaep made some amazing throws. Anquan Boldin might be slow and 200 years old, but he can still come up big on 3rd downs. The Eagles saw that yesterday.

* Toughness – Last year the Eagles had 2 awful offensive games. They lost 17-3 to Dallas and 15-7 to the Giants. Yesterday the Eagles went on the road to SF and lost 26-21. And they had a chance to win at the end. Good teams find a way to stay in games even when things are going very wrong for them. We’ve seen this from Eagles opponents plenty of times over the years.

There is no question that the current Eagles team is having some issues. But the team is still finding ways to stay in games. That shows a kind of mental and emotional toughness, something that can often pay off in big games late in the year. Anyone can win with their A-game. How do you do when things aren’t going your way? Can you stay in games? Can you still find a way to win?

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